Gracee Jacobs came to the Western Maryland Consortium newly recovering from a heroin addiction with no high school diploma and no work experience. She had started taking GED classes through Allegany County Adult Basic Education’s Career Pathways Program (a shared partners program with the Consortium). Gracee was also supported through the National Health Emergency Dislocated Workers Program Grant implemented by the Consortium.
Gracee illustrated commitment to GED classes by having the best attendance of any of the other students, and she made excellent progress. She has already passed two of the four segments of the GED test, and is scheduled to take the third in December.
Over the past summer, she worked 12 weeks at the Allegany County Animal Shelter in sweltering heat cleaning cat cages, feeding and watering cats, walking dogs, and a variety of other duties made even more difficult by the necessity of wearing a mask to keep herself and others safe from COVID-19 , but Gracee loved the animals and did an excellent job earning her two exemplary evaluations.
Gracee’s career goal is to become an addictions counselor, so our business services representative, Sheryl Sterne, scoured the local job openings on the Internet until she found just the perfect job for Gracee as a peer counselor at Hope Station Wellness and Recovery, a program of the Office of Consumer Advocates. Knowing that they were looking to hire a new employee, Sheryl convinced them to provide Gracee with a work experience before moving forward with their hiring process.
Gracee did not disappoint. She worked at Hope Station in the fall through the WIOA Out-of-School Youth Year-round Work Experience Program, and she developed a wealth of skills while there such as communication, problem-solving, leadership, clerical and observational skills. She learned how to work well under pressure and follow directions well with help from her supervisor, Abby Justice. Once again, she earned excellent evaluations.
Since she proved to be a perfect fit for the position, Hope Station decided to stop their job search and hire Gracee; she has been an asset to their program, and Abby is delighted to have her as her assistant.
Gracee has also connected with Stephanie Hutter-Thomas, PhD., a Maryland Rural Opioid Technical Assistance (Maryland ROTA) Educator from the University of Maryland, and Gracee hopes to become a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist through core training options that Stephanie will be offering locally.
Gracee’s future looks brighter than ever, and she has plans to continue her education after achieving her GED. Although 2020 has been a challenging year for us all, it has turned out to be an unprecedented year of achievement for Gracee. She is proof that determination, effort, and a good support system can be a powerful dynamic that leads to success. These programs were designed with people like Gracee in mind, and she illustrates how worthwhile they are.